Thursday, August 15, 2013

Conferences to stop licensing trademarks to EA Sports' NCAA Football video games; more posturing in settlement negotiations in NCAA student-athlete likeness antitrust litigation.

The Big Ten, Southeastern (SEC) and Pac-12 Conferences have decided to stop licensing their trademarks to EA Sports for its NCAA Football series of video games. Last month, the NCAA said it would discontinue licensing its trademarks to EA Sports for the NCAA Football video games. In light of the NCAA's decision, EA Sports said its next college football release would be titled "College Football '15."

The Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 are just the first conferences to say they will not license their trademarks to EA Sports for the video game. More conferences are expected to do the same. While individual schools can still license their marks to EA Sports for the game, EA would no longer be able to mention the NCAA or any of the conferences in future releases. This would diminish the realism of the game, and likely severely diminish profits EA is able to realize.

The conferences' decision is a continuation of the strategy employed by the NCAA: The conferences are "taking their balls and going home." Rather than pay the players for licensing their likenesses in video games, the conferences and the NCAA before them are now simply saying they will not take any part in the game's production, to avoid having to compensate the players.

In settlement negotiations, this is probably the best strategy the NCAA and the conferences can employ, because it eliminates the student-athletes' ability to negotiate for future profits. Unfortunately for gamers, it could mean the beginning of the end for college football video games.

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